Wharton, Edith Newbold Jones

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Wharton, Edith Newbold Jones,

1862–1937, American novelist, b. New York City, noted for her subtle, ironic, and superbly crafted fictional studies of New York society at the turn of the 20th cent. The daughter of a socially elect family, she was educated privately in New York and in Europe. In 1885 she married Edward Wharton, a Boston banker; after the first few years of marriage Edward Wharton became mentally ill, and the burden of caring for him fell upon his wife. Finally, in 1913, after she had settled permanently in France, Edith Wharton terminated the marriage by divorce.

Her early stories and tales were collected in The Greater Inclination (1899), Crucial Instances (1901), and The Descent of Man (1904); somewhat narrow in scope, they nevertheless show the unity of mood and the lucid, polished prose style of her more mature works. Much of her writing bears a resemblance to the fiction of Henry James, who was her close friend. However, the similarities are superficial, and in her best and most characteristic novels—The House of Mirth (1905) and The Age of Innocence (1920; Pulitzer Prize)—she asserts herself as a distinctive artist. Recreating the atmosphere of the unadventurous, ceremonious upper-class society of New York, she depicts in these and other works the cruelty of social convention, the changing fashions in morality, and the conflicts that arise between money values and moral values.

In the novella Ethan Frome (1911)—one of her best-known, most successful, and least characteristic works—Wharton evokes the tragic fate of three people against the stark background of rural New England. Among her many other novels are The Valley of Decision (1902), a historical novel of 18th-century Italy; The Custom of the Country (1913); Hudson River Bracketed (1929) and its sequel, The Gods Arrive (1932); and an unfinished work, The Buccaneers (1938). Collections of her short stories include Xingu and Other Stories (1916), Certain People (1930), and Ghosts (1937). Wharton also wrote travel books (e.g., Italian Backgrounds, 1905), books on interior design and architecture (e.g., The Decoration of Houses, 1897; Italian Villas and Their Gardens, 1904), literary criticism, and poetry. In 1915 she was awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honor by the French government for her services during World War I.

Bibliography

See her collected stories (2 vol., 2001); her autobiography, A Backward Glance (1934, repr. 1998); her letters, ed. by R. W. B. Lewis (1988); biographies by L. Auchincloss (1971), R. W. B. Lewis (1975, repr. 1985), S. Benstock (1994), E. Dwight (1994), and H. Lee (2007); studies by M. B. McDowell (1976, repr. 1991), C. G. Wolff (1977, repr. 1995), E. Ammons (1980), G. Walton (rev. ed. 1982), G. S. Rahi (1983), D. Holbrook (1991), B. A. White (1991), K. A. Fedorko (1995), C. J. Singley (1995), J. Dyman (1996), J. Beer (1997), S. B. Wright (1997), A. R. Tintner (1999), and H. Hoeller (2000).

References in periodicals archive ?
More recently, Deborah Lindsay Williams strongly asserted in her study, Not in Sisterhood: Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Zona Gale, and the Politics of Female Authorship, that particular modernist, and rather misogynistic, sensibilities in the literary world around the time of the Great War demonized women activists who challenged the status quo--activists which included the powerful voices of female figures like Susan B.
5) Finally, Jennie Kassanoff's Edith Wharton and the Politics of Race (2004) moves towards an exploration of Wharton's "complex conservatism" (7), seeing her not so much as "thoroughly implicated" (Ammons 83) but as consciously formulating and thinking about a conservative racial politics, even developing a "racial aesthetic--a theory of language and literature that encoded a deeply conservative, and indeed essentialist, model of American citizenship" (Kassanoff 5).
And his elaborate, richly textured prose seems to place him more comfortably among the Europeans than among his American contemporaries, such as Edith Wharton and William Dean Howells.
The Mount, built 100 years ago by novelist Edith Wharton and located in the Berkshire Mountains in Lenox, Mass.
So what if this tale of society snobs is based on an Edith Wharton novel, it's boring.
It is in the nature of saints to possess unusual career paths, but Drexel's is so idiosyncratic you wish Edith Wharton had recorded it.
My eyes rove around the room, falling next on an intelligent, coolly fastidious woman fresh from an Edith Wharton novel.
In addition, Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman's 1897 publication, The Decoration of Houses, provides a contrast for contemporary accounts of nouveau riche homes by illustrating how the possession of wealth did not automatically confer the ability to spend money tastefully.
To answer this unstated question, the author turns to the novels and short stories of Edith Wharton.
Newly formed American companies tried to compete with foreigners in the infant medium of film, while writers like Mark Twain and Edith Wharton were adding a distinctively American voice to literature.
Mario Benedetti, La borra del cafe (U) Charles Bukowski, El cartero llama una vez (V) Laura Esquivel, Como agua para chocolate (A,C,Ch,P,U) Eduardo Galeano, Palabras andantes (U) Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Doce cuentos peregrinos (G) Noah Gordon, Xama (B) Augusto Roa Bastos, El fiscal (P) Edith Wharton, La edad de la inocencia (A,B,C)